In Turkey, Twitter is ablaze with a hashtag: #Idamistiyorum or “I want the death sentence.” As the country emerges from a dramatic failed coup last night, July 15, the country is debating whether to reinstate capital punishment for the military men behind the attempted overthrow.
The debate—with over 20,000 tweets—was enflamed by a threat by former health minister and AKP party leader Mehmet Müezzinoğlu to bring back the death penalty for coup conspirators, in a televised statement broadcast by TVNET (Turkish).
Müezzinoğlu’s incendiary call echoes the violence that erupted in Istanbul’s streets as mobs attacked rebel soldiers, many of whom appeared to surrender once the government regained control. Crowds chanted idam istiyorum, idam istiyorum (“I want death”).
The death toll rose to at least 265 around noon on July 16, when prime minister Benali Yildirim announced that 161 “martyrs” had been killed, in addition to at least 104 coup participants. Calling the night “a black stain on Turkish democracy,” Yildirim confirmed that 1,440 people were wounded, and about 2,800 arrested in connection with the coup, which he said was backed by a “parallel terrorist organization.”
Alleged leaders of the coup were forced to strip naked after surrendering.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been vocal about his support for considering the re-introduction of capital punishment. “In the face of deaths, murders, if necessary the death penalty should be brought back to the table [for discussion],” he said in a 2012 speech after an upsurge in Kurdish militant violence, Reuters reported.
How Turkey chooses to deal with its coup plotters could be a turning point for the country, which has also seen an upsurge in terror attacks over the last few years. In 2004, Turkey abolished the death penalty for all penal offenses and in 2006 ratified the part of the European Convention of Human Rights that bans the death penalty.
With its membership to the EU still pending, the country’s choice to abide by or discard union’s philosophy on human rights will be closely watched. EU bylaws state: “The European Union holds a strong and principled position against the death penalty; its abolition is a key objective for the Union’s human rights policy. Abolition is, of course, also a pre-condition for entry into the Union.”